Putnam residents ready for major storm

As Hurricane Irma creeps closer to Putnam County, local businesses are boarding windows, laying sandbags and taking other precautions in preparation.

As of Friday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center predicted the eye of the hurricane to be near Putnam about 8 a.m. Monday, but the area is expected to experience tropical storm-force winds as early as Saturday night.

Although the hurricane center predicts Irma to be a Category 1 storm when it gets near Putnam, some downtown Palatka shop and building owners are not taking any chances.

On Friday, Dave Church was using plywood to cover windows at Enchanted Elixirz, 617 Seventh St.

Church, who owns the building, said Irma’s previous Category 5 status should have been enough to make everyone treat the hurricane as a threat.

“It’s a Category 5, which we’ve never seen before,” Church said. “If they want to sit it out, they can sit it out. There’s no guarantees in anything.”

Church, who also planned to put sandbags in front of the building’s doors, used the same plywood to board the building Friday as he did for Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

He said the building received no damage during Matthew and hopes the same is true after Irma passes.

“I don’t know if (boarding the windows) helped out or not, but we didn’t have any damage,” Church said.

Jonathan Jones, the manager at Enchanted Elixirz, said weather predictions show the hurricane should weaken by the time it hits Putnam.

Still, he said he was more than happy to break out the plywood from last year. Not only is hurricane preparation going on at his business, he said he had more work to do to protect his home before he and his family went to his father’s house to ride out the storm.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be, maybe, between a small (Category) 3 or a (Category) 2 when it gets to this area,” Jones said. “We’ve lasted out bigger storms than that.”

Bound for Glory & St. Johns Café was open Friday, but when they closed at 2 p.m., they began the process of boarding the shop and laying sandbags, owner Roberta Sprague said.

She said God is in control of whatever happens during the Hurricane, but she would err on the side of caution to minimize damage.

During Matthew, the only damage the business incurred was some spoiled food because of a power outage, Sprague said.

She said she hopes the damage from Irma is minimal so she can reopen Tuesday and continue the business’ ministry.

“(We’ll have) just the sandbags and the boarding of the windows and then prayer, of course,” Sprague said. “And we’re all set.”